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Steve Wagner, Published October 07 2012

Wagner: Too much hard training can catch up to runners

Bemidji, Minn.

It’s easy to get excited after a race and hurry to sign up for another. Maybe you’ve set a personal best, conquered a new distance or learned something about yourself to try in the next race. Or, if things didn’t go so well, you want to erase the memory of a bad or particularly challenging race.

Perhaps, you put in the training, but life ended up in the way – additional stresses at home or work, catching a cold or not-so-ideal travel – helped sink the race.

Depending on the motivation, it might seem tempting to jump into more hard training or another race in the near future.

There’s times when it makes sense and you can get away with it for a while.

But too much racing and hard training can catch up with any runner.

Personally, after racing 15 marathons in just over four years, the lack of proper rest has caught up with me. Buoyed by a number of personal records, and coming extremely close to that magic Boston Marathon qualifier, I continued to race and crank out hard training cycles, fearful I would lose my base and fitness.

It didn’t help that my two fastest times came while injured.

Eventually, though, the hard running and constant marathon preparations left me suffering from overtraining syndrome – a constant burning in my legs, a loss of speed and difficulty finding the motivation for long runs. As runners, we’re used to having nagging injuries or pushing through discomfort. So that’s what I did.

A 1998 article on the subject by Dr. Mark Jenkins of Rice University sums up the fix: “The treatment… is rest. The longer the overtraining has occurred the more rest required. Therefore, early detection is very important.”

Nothing I’ve found printed since then offers another solution. For me, running has been an experiment of one, and after some diminishing returns, it’s time to reset and recover for the next big challenge.


Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.